The stretch of coast we’ve reached now feels very different- lots of industry and built up areas, sometimes the artificial Ballardian landscapes of motorways and subways, suddenly appearing interesting just due to the variation they provide in our daily views.
Another daily concern of course is the weather. Generally throughout this tour we’ve been extremely lucky in that regard. Bar a handful of days where binbags and rucksack covers, waterproof raincoats and trousers, and even gaiters have been essential but still not enough to keep us dry, on more than one occasion we’ve dodged the worst that autumn in Wales has thrown our way.
We’ve seen storms sail on past further in land or offshore, as the coast path ahead seemed to mark a dry corridor to pass through. Rain and wind have passed overhead during the night or in the early hours, leaving the day either side mercifully clear. The other week, we finished a day that had been wet, but not due to falling rain (flooded roads and waterlogged fields etc), and mere minutes after closing the door to the cosy pub at our finishing point, the heavens outside opened. Just this week, despite the forecast showing all day rain, it twice seemed to know when we were in a car, hammering it down only while we were on the way from accommodation to start point and finish point to next accommodation, stopping just as we arrived at our destination, allowing rain free passage at the start or our journey, and to the pub at the end.
Walking along the Glamorgan Heritage Coast today, it didn’t feel like late October. It was high teens °C, clear blue skies and blazing sunshine. As glorious as the views that this allowed were, it was hard to enjoy it knowing that we are far past the point in the year’s seasonal cycle where weather like this should happen. Climate change is no longer this intangible future hypothetical but a real thing, having visible effects that we can feel.
Blackberries that we’ve been enjoying since the start of tour are still around, much later in the year than they ever were when I was a kid, learning simple foraging that kickstarted my love of nature and the outdoors.
A stunning hare bolted across a field, a new mammal that we haven’t come across yet on this trip. It was running away from the cliff, away from the gathering clouds and distant thunder that we could see over the Bristol Channel above Somerset, a helpless animal appearing to be attempting to flee an apparently far-off but inevitable climatic shift. That hare running away while we kept walking along our path, enjoying the sun with the occasional eye to changing conditions on the way sure feels like a metaphor for humanity’s fate.
It can be easy to be overcome with dread sometimes, but there can be reason for hope. On this trip we’ve seen so many people living their lives in self sufficient ways that we could all implement at least aspects of quite easily, that would have a real positive effect. We ourselves have shown that a tour on foot is possible, discovering so many things that the music industry and others could learn that would reduce the perceived need for vehicles. We’ve also learned how easy it is to live with the bare minimum. The number of clothes we’ve really needed, the number of items we’ve used, is so many fewer than we have access to in our daily lives and really, how much have we missed all that stuff? With just 5 days to go, how much will it feel like we’re really returning to the ‘real world’ when we have access to all that stuff again, or will we realise that what we’ve been doing- living simply, spending time outdoors, walking- is the real way to experience and, crucially, help protect, our world.